When people hear the phrase ‘smart cities’, they may instantly think of autonomous transport, or being served in shops and restaurants by robots, but the reality is, smart cities will not just happen overnight, they will appear gradually.
A smart city is a conurbation that utilises a combination of ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) and a fuzzy word; IoT (Internet-of-Things) to enhance operational effectiveness, the sharing of information with the public and enriches both the quality of local services and the lives of its citizens.
There are many challenges facing citizens in these modern times, such as transport, sustainability concerns, and the security of the general public.
With 55% of the world’s population now living in cities, and with as many as 43 cities expecting to have populations in excess of 10 million by 2030, it is important for cities to constantly adapt to the changing needs of their populations.
Smart cities and privacy concerns
Of course, with the increase in smart cities, the more data they will need to collect, and this has instigated some lively debate about privacy and data protection in the age of ‘Big Tech.’
Many people are beginning to mention smart cities in an Orwellian sense, with comparisons being made to the constant surveillance of citizens as seen in George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984.
People will want to know who is collecting and storing their data, and what is that data being used for exactly.
The benefits of smart cities
Nevertheless, despite some concerns over privacy and data protection, more people are beginning to become aware of the apparent benefits of living in a smart city.
With more data being collected and collated, local authorities will be able to plan improvements to local services, giving better value for money and improving sustainability.
With more people working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are asking, “Is this the end of the traditional workspace?” Cities will need to adapt to the changing world and if they don’t, many people could leave city living behind for a move to a more rural location.
Small smart city steps
Smart Traffic Lights
An idea currently under development is the way that traffic lights are controllable depending on the movement of emergency services around the city.
For example, were an ambulance needing to make its way from point A to B within a city but the roads had heavy congestion, then all the traffic lights along that route would change to the most efficient colour for the speedy passage of emergency service vehicles through a particular the area.
Drones for catching baddies
Another example is the use of drones and UAVs. A dangerous car chase through a condensed neighbourhood with police cars chasing down criminals could see an end – instead, the fleeing suspect’s vehicle would be tracked with a drone from high above meaning much safer pursuits, and far more success catching the bad guys.
With regards to contacting emergency services, an application for smartphones could utilize the ‘Pin-Drop’ feature.
Useful to let the emergency services know where you are, whether you don’t know the address, or are on the move, or are in a park for example.
With the push of a button, a person could share their location with an emergency service so that they can attend a situation as soon as possible.
In the fullness of time, smart cities will slowly become more of a reality, typically in the shape of small but consistent progress from tech companies, which will make city living in a modern digital world easier and safer.